We live in a time when the global gay rights movement is more accelerated and visible than ever before. But the march towards equality has its side effects, some of which are evident from the recent anti-gay attacks in New York City. And marriage equality certainly does not mean complete acceptance, as Michelangelo Signorile points out in his piece "Equality's Brutal Backlash".
Homophobia and the transgressions stemming from it can range from the very benign to the brutal. From the barely evident but entirely intended smirk on the face of someone on the street who sees you hold hands with a same-sex partner, to the recent brutal murder of Mark Carson in the heart of Manhattan's most gay-friendly neighborhood.
While incidents on the latter end of the spectrum understandably get the most media attention and a huge outpouring of support from almost anyone with a pulse, many others - that slur, that passing comment, that double entendre - are almost never reported.
Because who wants to appear too angry anyway - the image of the "angry young gay" is so passé. Yet, how many gay people do I know who have never been a victim of gay bashing, walking even the gay-friendliest of cities? None.
Now, Europe is taking the lead on using technology combined with a grassroots movement to track, report and mobilize action against gay bashing. All through a smartphone app called "Bashing" (www.bashing.eu).
The app was created in Brussels in 2012 after a slew of anti-gay incidents, including the murder of a gay man Ihsane Jarfi, which shockingly resembled the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard. The murder made global headlines and shook this very liberal city and country. (Belgium was the second in the world to legalize gay-marriage - in 2003 - and currently has an openly gay Prime Minister.)
The app shows the precise location and date of every incident, records whether it is verbal or physical, and creates a "Bashmap" showing problem areas on an embedded Google map. In Brussels, over a 100 incidents were reported within the first week after the launch of the app. Surprisingly, the locals quickly learned that the aggressions always occurred on busy roads and squares in the city center, like the locations of the recent NYC incidents!
Björn Pius, the co-creator of the app, never expected it to become so popular. Use quickly spread from Belgium to the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. One can even see two "red spots" in the small town of Forli, about ninety miles northwest of San Marino in Italy. (The app is available globally and incidents have been logged on the map in the US and South America as well.)
Björn says that the perpetrators are "mostly young, between the age of 15 and 30, and are driven by an animalistic instinct to display their masculinity and strength."
That common demographic makes dealing with the perpetrators a challenge. But the app has been a cultural phenomenon and helped to bring government attention to the issue. Since its release, Belgian parliament, the police, and local authorities have begun to grapple with a pattern of violence that was previously considered one-off and hard to pin down.
If Mark Carson was not safe on the streets of Greenwich Village in New York City, then none of us is safe. New York is a city that worships diversity, the "non-normal" and the different. No matter how out of fashion it might be, it is a time to be angry - very angry - and channel that anger through every tool at our disposal - including technology.
Because we know that crowd-sourced grassroots movements can topple regimes.
Because you or I could have been Mark Carson.
Because it's fucking 2013!